This review summarises selected aspects of the pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD) of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It is not intended to be comprehensive, in that it covers neither minor species nor several important aspects of NSAID PD. The limited objective of the review is to summarise those aspects of NSAID PK and PD, which are important to an understanding of PK–PD integration and PK–PD modelling (the subject of the next review in this issue). The general features of NSAID PK are: usually good bioavailability from oral, intramuscular and subcutaneous administration routes (but with delayed absorption in horses and ruminants after oral dosing), a high degree of binding to plasma protein, low volumes of distribution, limited excretion of administered dose as parent drug in urine, marked inter-species differences in clearance and elimination half-life and ready penetration into and slow clearance from acute inflammatory exudate.
The therapeutic effects of NSAIDs are exerted both locally (at peripheral inflammatory sites) and centrally. There is widespread acceptance that the principal mechanism of action (both PD and toxicodynamics) of NSAIDs at the molecular level comprises inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme in the arachidonic acid cascade, which generates inflammatory mediators of the prostaglandin group. However, NSAIDs possess also many other actions at the molecular level. Two isoforms of COX have been identified. Inhibition of COX-1 is likely to account for most of the side-effects of NSAIDs (gastrointestinal irritation, renotoxicity and inhibition of blood clotting) but a minor contribution also to some of the therapeutic effects (analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions) cannot be excluded. Inhibition of COX-2 accounts for most and possibly all of the therapeutic effects of NSAIDs. Consequently, there has been an intensive search to identify and develop drugs with selectivity for inhibition of COX-2. Whole blood in vitro assays are used to investigate quantitatively the three key PD parameters (efficacy, potency and sensitivity) for NSAID inhibition of COX isoforms, providing data on COX-1:COX-2 inhibition ratios. Limited published data point to species differences in NSAID-induced COX inhibition, for both potency and potency ratios. Members of the 2-arylpropionate sub-groups of NSAIDs exist in two enantiomeric forms [R-(−) and S-(+)] and are licensed as racemic mixtures. For these drugs there are marked enantiomeric differences in PK and PD properties of individual drugs in a given species, as well as important species differences in both PK and PD properties.